This week, "now aspartame free" bottles of Diet Pepsi hit the shelves. PepsiCo made this move in response to consumer concern over the sweetener.
"The change reflects widespread public concern about the safety of aspartame," says Lisa Y. Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a food safety watchdog group. "Diet sodas contain several questionable ingredients, but aspartame is the one we’re most concerned about."
By now, you are likely aware of the possible dangers posed by diet sodas
. But is there one that is less harmful? Prevention
did the work for you and here is how they stack up:
Diet Pepsi no longer has aspartame which may place it at the top of the list but that is really only by default as it still contains acesulfame potassium (ace-K) which has been poorly tested (although 2 studies suggest it poses a cancer risk) and sucralose which an upcoming study links to leukaemia. "The thing is, aspartame has undergone better cancer testing than these other artificial sweeteners," Lefferts explains, "so while it appears to be the worst from a risk perspective, it's possible that these others are just as bad and we just don't know it."
Diet Pepsi also contains 'caramel color.' "The caramel color used in soda is made with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures," Lefferts explains. In the process, contaminants like a cancer-causing agent called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, can form. The levels of 4-MI are much higher in Diet Pepsi than in Diet Coke, according to testing by Consumer Reports
International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization concluded in 2011 that 4-MI is "possibly carcinogenic to humans," and California now lists it as a carcinogen.
Diet Coke without aspartame also contains sucralose so tread lightly.
Somewhere In The Middle
Aspartame sweetens most diet sodas. Here are the aspartame contents from lowest to highest per 8 ounce bottle: Sprite Zero (50 mg), Coke Zero (58 mg), Pepsi Max (77 mg), Diet Pepsi and Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi (111 mg and 118 mg, respectively), Diet Dr. Pepper (123 mg), Diet Coke and Caffeine-free Coke (125 mg). It is also important to remember that all these sodas -- except Sprite Zero -- contains caramel color and with that a risk of 4-MI.
Diet Mountain Dew might just be the riskiest drink of them all. Not only does it contain aspartame, ace-K, and sucralose, it contains more caffeine than the average diet soda. It also gets its color from Yellow #5 which has been shown to cause hyperactivity in some children.
It also contains the emulsifier brominated vegetable oil (BVO), which has been shown to leave residues in body fat and the fat in the brain, liver, and other organs. In 1970, the FDA declard BVO to be "not generally recognized as safe" but allowed its use pending further study. The FDA has done nothing more since. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have vowed to remove BVO from any beverages that contain it but they have yet to give a timeline.
When all is said and done, despite the new aspartame free configuration, it is likely best to take a pass on diet soda. This appears to be one final attempt to revive sales in a world where people are starting to make healthier choices.
I will stick to my infused water, how about you?
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